By Thursday evening, Spender – hastily appointed to fill the Liberal Democrat Party seat left vacant by David Leyonhjelm’s nifty transfer to the NSW state Parliament – was gone with all the MPs, and in his case, most unlikely to return.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison was heading off, too, preparing to visit the Governor-General to ask for an election, praying that Australia’s voters, against all predictions, might save him from the fate of being the Liberal Party’s shortest-serving prime minister.
There have been a handful of Australian politicians who have served in the top job for shorter periods than Morrison, but all have been from either Labor or the Country Party, and almost all were fill-ins after the death of national leaders.
Morrison has been a fill-in for 220 days so far, ever since Malcolm Turnbull was felled (though still breathing), and Peter Dutton, who thought he would occupy Turnbull’s old perch, came a gutser.
That leaves Morrison far short of other Liberal short-termers: the odd Billy McMahon (PM for one year and 272 days), the unfortunate ocean swimmer Harold Holt (one year and 325 days) and the current backbencher Tony Abbott (one year and 362 days).
If you imagined Morrison’s months were weird, they were simply a continuation of the lunacy that kicked off on Australia Day, 2015.
That was the day when Abbott decided it was a splendid idea to invest the Duke of Edinburgh with an Australian knighthood. It required the Queen, the Duke’s wife, to do the honours. Awkward.
Thus followed Abbott’s end and the long misadventure of the leader who dispatched him, Turnbull, who found himself terrorised by the spurned and forever seething Abbott and his band of malcontents.
Soon enough, Turnbull found himself surrounded by colleagues who couldn’t be sure of their citizenship status. It turned out to be very awkward indeed when the High Court decided most of them weren’t all-Australian, as advertised.
Turnbull’s period of highest farce came after Barnaby Joyce’s romantic adventures led to the prime minister banning the bonk between ministers and staffers.
Too late, you’d have to say, with a child on the way.
Morrison’s 220 days, however, comfortably eclipsed the tomfoolery of his predecessors.
Consider his attempt to swing voters back to the Liberal fold in Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth by announcing he wanted to move Australia’s Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem.
This Trumpesque flourish neither saved the seat from independent Kerryn Phelps nor achieved an embassy transfer, but left the diplomatic community yearning for Julie Bishop’s return to foreign affairs on the basis she knew something of how the world worked.
Alas, Bishop had quit Morrison’s ministry after his elevation to the leadership, and had made the announcement wearing fury-red shoes.
The shoes soon became a symbol of sisterhood among Liberal women sickened by bloke bullying, and now are enshrined (truly) within the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Meanwhile, as the Morrison government lurched along, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten kept such a low profile he appeared to detractors to be in protective custody. It is an approach that has seen him through five years and seven months as Opposition Leader.
Though Labor led the Coalition in poll after poll, Morrison continued as the nation’s preferred prime minister, which said something very uncomplimentary about Shorten’s public reputation.
The Labor Party itself – regularly wild-eyed and argumentative – stage-managed its national conference in December with such restraint it resembled a prayer meeting. The main prayer was that Australians had forgotten Labor’s and Shorten’s own weakness for leadership fluidity between 2010 and 2013.
And now, armed with their spectacularly generous economic promises, Morrison and Shorten have left this Parliament to face their destiny.
Will Morrison be confirmed as the Liberal Party’s shortest-serving PM?
Or will Shorten have to be content with the unlikely title of longest-serving Labor opposition leader since Kim Beazley (1996-2001). Who never became PM.
Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.